Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Beren and Lúthien
“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Of their lives was made the Lay of Leithian, Release of Bondage, which is the longest save one of the songs concerning the world of old; but here the tale is told in fewer words and without song.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we begin the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien by witnessing Beren’s beginnings and growth into the epic warrior he was to become.
The quote above begins the chapter, and we quickly learn of the Outlaws of Dorthonian led by Barahir, Beren’s father. These were the last twelve human men living in Dorthonian because “Barahir would not forsake” it. Pursued by Morgoth, these men hid in the moors of the highlands of that region at a lake named “Tarn Aeluin.”
“The waters of Tarn Aeluin were held in reverence, for they were clear and blue by day and by night were a mirror for the stars; and it was said that Melian herself had hallowed that water in days of old.“
These Men lived in peace for several years until one of the Outlaws, Gorlim, came home from a battle and “found his house plundered and forsaken, and his wife gone; whether slain or taken he knew not.”
Despite plundering this house, the Outlaws remained hidden and were a thorn in Morgoth’s side, so he “commanded Sauron to find them and destroy them.“
Sauron learned of Gorlim’s loss and, with his sorcery, set an illusion of Gorlim’s wife in the house. Then, when he came back from ranging, he saw her image in the place, “and her face was worn with grief and hunger, and it seemed to him that he heard her lamenting that he had forsaken her.”
Sauron’s trap had worked. Agents of Sauron captured Gorlim and “tormented him, seeking to learn the hidings of Barahir and all his ways. But nothing would Gorlim tell.”
The torment continued until Sauron finally offered Gorlim’s wife back to him. “Then Sauron laughed; and he mocked Gorlim, and revealed to him that he had seen only a phantom devised by wizardry to entrap him; for Eilinel (Gorlim’s wife) was dead.“
But he still promised to bring her back, and “In this way the hiding of Barahir was revealed.”
Morgoth’s agents descended on the troop and brutally slaughtered them. Fortunately, Beren, son of Barahir, was off-ranging when the devastation happened.
Beren returned after having a prophetic dream, telling of his father’s murder, but he was too late. He saw his fellow Outlaws dead next to the Tarn Aeluin. “There Beren buried his father’s bones, and raised a cairn of boulders above him, and swore upon it an oath of vengeance.”
Beren tracked the Orc party to their camp “at Rivil’s Well above the Fen of Serech.“
“There their captain made boast of his deeds, and he held up the hand of Barahir that he had cut off as a token for Sauron that their mission was fulfilled; and the ring of Felegund was on that hand. Then Beren sprang from behind a rock, and slew the captain, and taking the hand and the ring he escaped.“
For four years, Beren wandered Dorthonian as a “solitary outlaw.” Finally, he became one with the land, and “he became the friend of birds and beasts, and they aided him… and from that time forth he ate no flesh nor slew any living thing that was not in the service of Morgoth.”
Beren “did not fear death, but only captivity, and being bold and desperate he escaped both death and bonds; and the deeds of lonely daring he acheived were noised abroad throughout Beleriand, and the tale of them came even into Doriath.”
His deeds became so legendary that Orcs would flee instead of standing up against him if he were near. Finally, Morgoth became distraught that a man was causing such havoc in a land he was supposed to be in control of, so he ordered Sauron to flood the land with his armies to flush Beren out. “Sauron brought werewolves, fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he had imprisoned in their bodies.”
Dorthonian “was now become filled with evil, and all clean things were departed from it.” Sauron’s plan to find him didn’t work, but the land had become so overrun that Beren fled south, “There it was put into his heart that he would go down into the Hidden Kingdom” of Doriath.
“Terrible was his southward journey” through Ered Gorgoroth, where so many others had perished in that land “where the sorcery of Sauron and the power of Melian came together.“
Beren was known for many great deeds during his lifetime, and “that journey is not accounted least among the great deeds… but he spoke of it to no one after, lest the horror return to his mind.” That region is one of horror in Beleriand, save only for Angband itself. “There spiders of the fell race of Ungoliant abode, spinning their unseen webs in which all living things were snared; and monsters wandered there that were born in the long dark before the sun, hunting silently with many eyes.”
Imagine wandering through a land filled with creatures like Shelob from Return of the King and other creatures whose sole purpose was to destroy all that came from the light. This evil land survived independently from Morgoth because Ungoliant was the only creature Morgoth truly feared, yet Beren, with all his might,uuj]1 made his way through unscathed.
He finally “passed through the mazes that Melian wove about the kingdom of Thingol… grey and bowed as with many years of woe.”
But it was there in the forests of Doriath his journey was complete because “wandering in the summer in the woods of Neldoreth he came upon Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, at a time of evening under moonrise.“
The two star-crossed lovers have finally met. Join me next week as we discover how they last through a disapproving father and a curse that will come to doom Doriath.